Veterans Throw Support Behind Standing Rock Protesters After Trump Signs Dakota Access Pipeline Memo

Marine Corps veteran Nesky Hernandez, center, carries his pack after arriving with fellow veterans at the Oceti Sakowin camp where people have gathered to protest the Dakota Access oil pipeline in Cannon Ball, N.D., Sunday, Dec. 4, 2016. Tribal elders have asked the military veterans joining the large Dakota Access pipeline protest encampment not to have confrontations with law enforcement officials, an organizer with Veterans Stand for Standing Rock said Sunday, adding the group is there to help out those who've dug in against the four-state, $3.8 billion project. (AP Photo/David Goldman)

Marine Corps veteran Nesky Hernandez, center, carries his pack after arriving with fellow veterans at the Oceti Sakowin camp where people have gathered to protest the Dakota Access oil pipeline in Cannon Ball, N.D., Sunday, Dec. 4, 2016.(AP Photo/David Goldman)

A U.S. military veterans group announced new efforts to support the Standing Rock Native American tribe and protesters who oppose completion of the Dakota Access pipeline, just days after President Donald Trump took action to move the project forward.

Those efforts include developing the capability to deploy thousands of veteran volunteers to Standing Rock, potentially putting the White House in a politically difficult position. They come as tensions have escalated between protesters and law officers in recent weeks.

Veterans Stand launched a fundraising drive on GoFundMe last week to support a network of protesters camped out near Cannon Ball, North Dakota. It seeks to raise $500,000 to buy supplies for campers, provide car rides for volunteers and create a rapid response ability. It has raised about $19,000 in two days.

“The 4,000 could have easily turned into 20,000, because that’s how we’re trained to operate.”-Anthony Diggs, communications director, Veterans Stand

“We stand in unity with our brothers and sisters in Standing Rock (and beyond) and our community is ready to mobilize,” the group said on the GoFundMe page.

About 4,000 veterans traveled to the reservation in North Dakota last month to support the protest by the Standing Rock Sioux tribe, environmentalists and other activists, according to figures provided by Veterans Stand.

The Standing Rock Sioux oppose completion of Energy Transfer Partners‘ Dakota Access pipeline because it would pass beneath a source for the tribe’s drinking water and construction would disrupt sacred land, they say.

Dakota Access pipeline route, source: Energy Transfer Partners

The project, which would deliver oil from North Dakota to Illinois, is nearly complete except for a small portion about half a mile north of the reservation. That stretch requires an easement from the Army Corps of Engineers.

Protesters won a temporary victory under former President Barack Obama when the Corps denied the easement. The Corps launched a new environmental impact study with the goal of identifying new routes for the pipeline — an option Energy Transfer Partners said it would not consider.

Problems for Trump

Anthony Diggs, communications director for Veterans Stand, said the new campaign is motivated in part by Trump’s presidential memo ordering the Army Corps of Engineers to expedite its environmental review and consider other actions that would pave the way for the project’s approval.

The group’s ongoing support sets up a potential confrontation between veterans and an outspoken president who frequently praises the military but rarely holds back when challenged.

Trump suffered backlash during the presidential campaign after he made disparaging comments about Khizr and Ghazala Khan, the Pakistani-American parents of a fallen U.S. soldier. The couple spoke out against Trump’s policies, including a ban on Muslim immigration to the United States.

The president ignored a reporter’s request to make a statement to the Standing Rock community after signing the presidential memo. White House press secretary Sean Spicer later said Trump would speak to all parties involved.

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